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The Interpersonal Dispute Equation

It occurs to me that there are common “interpersonal dispute equations”. Here’s one of them. It is straightforward and yet, complex in its seeming simplicity. It goes something like:

You hurt me + I hurt you back = Dispute

A more specific example might be: “You blamed me for making a mistake that cost us money” + “I accused you of being a bully and taking no responsibility for your part” = dispute.

Or, of course, it could be reversed – I hurt you + you hurt me back = dispute.

For instance: “I didn’t include you in the get together” + “You hurt me back by telling me I was inconsiderate and selfish” = dispute.

Not only is it challenging to step back (Stepping Back in Conflict) before reacting when we are offended by what someone says or does. It is also difficult to maintain grace and composure and not become defensive in the moment. The need to be right, to retaliate and many other variables seem to preclude an equation that adds a positive part, leading to a more positive result – like problem solving.

An example – referring to the first equation above – may be instead: “You blamed me for making a mistake that cost us money” + I say “You are right. I thought I was helping the situation. How can I rectify this?” = problem solving.

With this in mind, this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog asks you to consider a situation in which you added to the dispute equation by reacting and initiating a conflict.

  • When you bring to mind a dispute in which you reacted negatively to something someone said or did, how would you describe the dispute equation?
  • What might you have said differently to express your reaction that may have been better received and led to problem solving?
  • What might the other person have said differently to express what provoked her or him about you – that you may have received better?
  • Looking at another dispute – one that you initiated – how would you describe that equation (starting with what you said or did that started things)?
  • How might the other person describe the equation – considering her or his perspective on your part?
  • What did the other person read into your intentions that seemed to upset her or him most?
  • How might you have more effectively raised the issue that resulted in the dispute equation you described?
  • What do you think the ingredients are of a problem solving equation instead of a dispute one?
  • What other tips do you have about ways to keep the equation a problem solving one rather than a dispute initiating one?
  • In what ways does this notion of examining the equation resonate for you?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

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